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Brady laments lost years for Ireland hero Hoolahan

Robbie Brady was delighted to see Wes Hoolahan dazzle in the Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2016 opener against Sweden, but rued the fact his team-mate’s moment on the big stage had not arrived sooner.

Hoolahan, ably supported by the similarly impressive Brady and Jeff Hendrick, helped Ireland into the ascendancy for the much of the first half at the Stade de France – his deft touches and razor-sharp awareness helping to elevate a match that often favoured brawn over brains.

The Norwich City playmaker’s crowning moment came shortly after the break, when he crashed home an unstoppable half-volley from Seamus Coleman’s cross to prompt bedlam among the hordes of green behind the goal.

The Republic could not hold on, as the largely well-shackled Zlatan Ibrahimovic prompted an own goal from Ciaran Clark, but Brady gushed with praise for his 34-year-old club colleague – finally enjoying his moment in the sun after being left on the shelf during the Giovanni Trapattoni era.

Hoolahan’s won his first cap for the Republic in May 2008 against Colombia but there was a near four-and-a-half year wait for a second appearance in a friendly with Greece.

“He’s brilliant, he’s a class act and I’m over the moon for him,” Brady said. “No one will be able to take the goal away from him and he put in a man-of-the-match performance as well. He was excellent, which he always is. He’s a joy to play with and it’s a joy to watch him play.

“It’s a shame to football, a shame to Irish football that he missed that much time and people didn’t get to see him for that time. But he’s here now and I think we’ve just got to tune in and catch the best of him, because he’s still a top-class player.”

Despite Hoolahan’s advancing years, Brady has no doubt he will be ready to take on a Belgium side smarting from defeat to Italy when the sides meet in Bordeaux on Saturday.

“He’s very important, he looks after himself, he’s in very great shape – and he seems to be getting better with age,” Brady added. “There’s no doubt that he’ll be ready to go again. If he puts in another performance like he did against Sweden, it’ll do us a load of good.”

Coleman’s role in Ireland’s breakthrough moment was significant, as he tormented Sweden wideman Emil Forsberg, but he was also keen to turn the spotlight on to the goalscorer.

“Wes is a top player, a different player to what we have,” the Everton right-back said. “He’s someone who links the play, gets in behind defences and makes great intelligent passes. 

“He’s a top lad and it’s great for Wes. With the kind of journey he’s been on, to be showing [his ability] on the European stage is fantastic.”

Tue 14 Jun, 2016
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